Reconstructing phylogenetic trees from DNA sequences has become a popular exercise in many branches of biology, and here the well-known geneticist John Avise explains why. Molecular phylogenies provide a genealogical backdrop for interpreting the evolutionary histories of many other types of biological traits (anatomical, behavioral, ecological, physiological, biochemical and even geographical).
Guiding readers on a natural history tour along dozens of evolutionary pathways, the author describes how creatures ranging from microbes to elephants came to possess their current phenotypes. Essential reading for college students, professional biologists and anyone interested in natural history and biodiversity, this book is packed with fascinating examples of evolutionary puzzles from across the animal kingdom; how the toucan got its enormous bill, how reptiles grow back lost limbs and why Arctic fish don't freeze.
Preface; 1. Introduction; 2. Anatomical structures and morphologies; 3. Body colorations; 4. Sexual features and reproductive lifestyles; 5. More behaviors and ecologies; 6. Cellular, physiological, and genetic traits; 7. Geographical distributions; Epilogue; Appendix A: A primer on phylogenetic character mapping; Glossary; References and further reading; Index.
John C. Avise is a Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Irvine.
'This is such a marvelous accomplishment that I would recommend to all, with even the slightest interest in evolution, buying the hardcover version to keep for a long time as standard reference to a phylogenetic understanding of structure and function in living organisms. I would especially recommend it to medical geneticists grappling daily with the (self-evident) fact that everything that develops, whether normal or abnormal, has evolved, and that nothing can occur in development that evolution has not made possible ! [the book] is an extraordinarily effective means to learn about and to understand evolutionary relationships. It is one of the best-written and most comprehensive books on the subject.' American Journal of Medical Genetics 'John Avise's book ! is a welcome corrective. It is a rich anthology of 'evolutionary short stories' detailing how our knowledge of natural history and biodiversity has been transformed by molecular phylogenetics. The breadth of examples covered is dizzying ! The abundance of fascinating evolutionary tales and the engaging clarity with which Avise tells them not only guarantee that this book will serve its purpose but also make it a 'must-have' for all enthusiasts of evolutionary biology.' Nature Genetics